I actually wanted to have the party descend into Woodhall Grove last week, but they had other ideas. Now that we’ve finally arrived, let’s unpack.
Walter has been feeling a great deal of stress about his sudden return to Valley politics. His outburst, however, embarrassed him greatly — which led him to apologize. It was important for him to this apology to Jeremy, whom he views as his charge, but it was even more important for him to apologize to Ama. The healer has been his closest confidant for most of his life, and he’s felt a bit disconnected from her since returning to The Ravine.
The healer knows, more than anyone else, what his return to The Valleys is doing to Walter’s heart. She’s been concerned about him, and his outburst made it seem as though her worst fears were true. When Walter apologized to his oldest friend, she realized he was managing his struggles and is still able to express his heart. The moment she took his hand into her own said more than any words ever could. Walter knows how much his return has cost him, and he knows Ama is aware of his pain, the tear he sheds is a tear of joy.
The Great Stairs
It seems odd for so great an engineering feat to be undertaken for such a little-used road. Both the switchbacks and the alternate route to the River Road pre-date the great stairs, and are a remnant of the time when the High Road was the only way back into the Inner Valleys. So why waste so much energy creating a massive engineering feat which would almost never be used?
I can’t actually answer this question at the moment, but there is a huge hint about it’s purpose given in the scene.
Jeremy considers Michael and Walter to be friends, but both men are quite a bit older than he is. Terrin, however, is somewhat closer in age to the youth, and the two have become quite close in the months they’ve known one another.
I liked the idea of Terrin running ahead of Jeremy without warning his young friend. On one level it is very much the type of thing which happens between friends. On the other, Terrin is still doing his duty. By being ahead of Jeremy he puts himself in a position where any dangers would happen to him first. The plateau is generally wide open as the road approaches the top of the stairs, which is why Michael allowed Terrin and Jeremy to run forward at all, but the guard isn’t taking any chances.
If Woodhall is such a big settlement, where are the other buildings? The answer is actually hinted at in the text. The river is rushing to a nearby set of falls, and the rest of the settlement of Woodhall is constructed at their bottom. The great house, from which the settlement gets its name, serves as a governor’s residence and town hall.